Sports betting in Florida was scheduled to launch on October 15th, but legal setbacks may be slowing the state’s Seminole Tribe from bringing sports wagering to the Sunshine State.
If you’ve been following along since May, state legislatures approved an agreement between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe to allow sports betting on their tribal land, the location of the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel. The 30-year contract approved retail and online sports betting for the casino. The state also approved craps and roulette tables as part of this agreement.
Although state legislature approved the compact in May, it still needed the Department of Interior’s approval. August came and went, and the department hadn’t approved or rejected the agreement. This decision, or lack thereof, effectively passed the compact since the 45-day voting window elapsed.
So why haven’t we seen sports betting in the state yet?
The delay could be due to normal business setbacks or the multiple lawsuits at hand. As one of the most profitable casinos in the United States, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Fort Lauderdale maintains control over how sports betting gets introduced to the state. Three separate lawsuits are trying to stop the state and their agreement with the Seminole Tribe. Of these three lawsuits, one was dismissed on Monday, October 18th, by the federal government.
The lawsuit in July was filed by the pari-mutuels Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County and Bonita Springs Poker Room. It challenged the agreement and stated that it was federally illegal for the compact to allow betting to take place on land outside of the tribal casino. The lawsuit also mentioned that online betting controlled by the tribe would “cannibalize” their customer base.
Under the agreement between the Seminole tribe and the state, the computer servers needed to be on Seminole land to allow online betting. As long as the servers were on Seminole tribal property, then they were following the law. Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room disagreed.
The attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor to dismiss the lawsuit. The attorneys argued that Magic City Casino nor Bonita Springs Poker Room had any evidence as to how they would be harmed by the compact. Judge Allen Winsor dismissed the case.
On top of this, FanDuel and DraftKings have both contributed $10m each toward a political campaign targeting the legalization of sports betting in Florida. FanDuel and DraftKings are pushing an amendment that allows sports betting by pari-mutuel facilities, professional sports teams, and online sports betting by approved businesses.
With two lawsuits at hand and a $20m campaign, Florida sports betting is sure to have some updates again soon.
The pressure doesn’t seem to be getting to the Seminole Gaming CEO, Jim Allen, however, who stated, “We’re hopeful we prevail there. . . But keep in mind, we’re actually not the target. It’s actually the state of Florida and the United States Department of Interior. And certainly, the legal process has to work through that.” The Seminole Tribe also recently partnered with five facilities in Florida to begin marketing sports betting heavily in the state. The partners would receive a 60% cut of the profits generated by the marketing. Allen told CNBC his goal is to launch online sports betting within the next two months.